Monday, October 15, 2007

What's In It For Us?

Before tonight's public meeting on ARHA's plan to seek HOPE VI redevelopment money, it might be useful to take a look at what is happening at Glebe Park and what it may mean for James Bland and our neighborhood.

We should also brush up on what ARHA, the City and EYA tentatively proposed last March for Bland.

On October 23 the City Council will approve the proposed redevelopment of Glebe Park by EYA. (The SUP was up for consideration on October 13, but was deferred until the 23rd.) That project, which includes buildings at three different sites in Arlandria, currently has 152 units but will have 102 homes after redevelopment. Most of the current buildings will be torn down; 24 existing units will be renovated and 78 new homes built.

The mix at Glebe Park will change from 40 public housing units and 112 "market rate affordable" units to 84 public housing units, 10 "workforce" housing units and 8 market rate units.

In essence, Glebe Park is getting 44 more public housing units, and these are coming from Bland.

Does this represent the "screwing" of Arlandria, as one commenter has suggested? It all turns on one's definition of the 112 old "market rate affordable" units. The Growler heard repeatedly that the quality of these units was such that the only renters that could be found were Section 8 voucher holders.

Another factor, which some of the Glebe Park Stakeholder Group members refused to accept, is that the land at Bland is simply more valuable and that market rate development there is needed to finance the rebuilding of Glebe Park. More market rate units at Glebe Park wouldn't help cover the bill substantially. In addition, City staff concluded that a Chatham Square-style redevelopment wouldn't work at Glebe Park given the configuration of the blocks around the project and the smaller and shallower parcels.

What is irrefutable is that Glebe Park will now have 84 Resolution 830 units. (Another reason not to feel sorry for Arlandria: earlier this year the proposal was for 106 Resolution 830 public housing units at Glebe Park.)

The additional 44 units have already been identified as "relocation resource for households that will move from James Bland in the next phases of the overall EYA/ARHA redevelopment plan" (Development Special Use Permit #2006-0031, p. 10).

But what does the future hold for James Bland?

Currently Bland and Bland Addition have a total of 194 units of public housing. As noted above, 44 units will be relocated to Glebe Park, leaving 150 units in place. The City has also acknowledged that another 16 units must be moved from Bland to another location in Alexandria. That brings the total number of public housing units left at Bland after redevelopment to 134.

This represents a total reduction of about one third of the public housing units at Bland. Chatham Square, by contrast, resulted in nearly half of the units (48 out of 100) in the old Berg project being dispersed off-site.

And of course, none of this takes account of the other remaining public housing units around Parker-Gray, including Andrew Adkins (which was removed from the negotiations with EYA months ago and is currently in limbo) or Samuel Madden Uptown (the projects nearest the McDonald's on Henry Street).

Back on March 6, a work session was held with Council and ARHA to discuss Glebe Park. At that time, the projection from Jeff Farner of Planning & Zoning was 128 public housing units at James Bland and 184 new market rate units for a total of 312 homes.

That's a lot of density, and Rob Krupicka commented that he felt "like the City was trying to put too much" on small plots of land. He was echoed by Eric Wagner, who also said it "looked way too dense" and noted that Bland currently had a lot of open space where kids could play. Mr. Krupicka in fact went on to suggest taking a large number of 830 units and finding another place for them, mentioning Potomac Yard, Eisenhower West, and Van Dorn as possible relocation sites.

So the question now facing our community is what will be built at Bland. Will it add to the already enormous density planned for the Braddock Road Metro area, without really dispersing public housing significantly? Will ARHA submit the March plan for Bland as part of its HOPE VI application to HUD due on November 7? Would a HOPE VI grant make it easier for ARHA to buy land for dispersed housing elsewhere in the City?

And here's another wrinkle: supposedly a number of jurisdictions devastated by Hurricane Katrina will be competing with ARHA for HOPE VI grants. What's the likelihood ARHA has a chance to get its share of that pot of money?

Hope VI Meeting Tonight

The Growler would like to remind readers about the public meeting this evening on the redevelopment of public housing in our area.

Here's the information from ARHA:
This notice is to inform you that the Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority (ARHA) has scheduled a community meeting for Monday, October 15 from 7:00 – 9:00 PM to be held at The Durant Center (1605 Cameron Street).

HUD has announced the availability of $94.2 Million in Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE VI) Revitalization Grant Funds. ARHA intends to apply for HOPE VI in order to improve the living environment of public housing residents of James Bland and Glebe Park by demolishing outdated public housing units and replacing them with new improved housing. Most recently, HOPE VI funds were used by ARHA to build the Chatham Square community. This is a very competitive grant and we would appreciate your input into our application for these funds.

Please take the time to participate in the meeting and inform yourself of how Alexandria could benefit from this tremendous opportunity. The planning for the Revitalization Grant will not conflict with discussions of the Braddock Metro Plan and the Braddock East Plan so we welcome the participation of those with so much knowledge already of related issues.

If you need special accommodations, please contact Ms. Lewis at (703) 549-7115 x 260.